By DAVE HANNEMAN
LIMA — Findlay and Lima Senior played 28 minutes of pretty even basketball Friday night.
It was those other four minutes that were the difference.
Josiah Fulcher opened the game by bombing in back-to-back 3-pointers from deep in the right corner, Lima Senior raced to a 12-0 lead in the first four minutes and the Spartans rode that early surge to a 71-51 win over Findlay in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference rematch between the I-75 rivals.
“Making shots, that’s the name of the game,” Lima Senior coach Quincy Simpson after the Spartans beat Findlay by an almost identical margin as the Trojans’ 81-63 victory over the Spartans in early January.
“If you can make shots you always have a chance to win against a team that plays zone. And when we start making shots, our confidence gets a lot better.”
In avenging that earlier loss to Findlay, Lima Senior improved to 17-4 overall, 10-2 in the TRAC and set up a showdown with Toledo Whitmer next Friday with the league title on the line. Lima Senior handed Whitmer (20-1, 12-1 TRAC) its only loss of the season and would claim at least a share of the TRAC championship if it wins next week.
Findlay had a three-game winning streak halted and fell to 13-7, 7-6 in the TRAC.
“They shot really, really well from the get-go,” FHS coach Jim Rucki of Lima Senior, which knocked down 9 of 17 3-point attempts and 28 of 50 shots overall.
“If they shoot like that, they are going to be tough for anybody to beat.”
After nailing back-to-back 3’s to open the game, Fulcher, a 6-foot-1 junior who was a starter on Pickerington Central’s state semifinal team last season, scored on a fastbreak lay-up following a block by Jamir Simspon. Simspon then stole the ball and went coast to coast and Khalil Luster, a 5-4 freshman, hit a shot.
Just 3:45 into the game, Findlay trailed 12-0.
Findlay cut the deficit to four points (16-12) late in the first quarter and was down just five (23-18) after A.J. Adams connected twice, the second time off a nice dish from Max Roth.
Isaiah Moore had a chance at a three-point play with 3:25 left in the half. He missed the free throw, but Ben Howard grabbed the rebound and fed Ryan Roth for an NBA 3-pointer that left Findlay down eight (31-23).
Lima Senior ended the first half a 6-2 run, though, then opened the third quarter the same way the Spartans opened the second –converting two offensive rebounds into baskets. The Spartans lead was at least 10 points the rest of the game.
“We battled back,” Rucki said. “We were down four or five. Even down 12 at the half is doable.
“But when they weren’t making shots, they can go get it. They were getting offensive rebounds — that been our Achilles’ heel all year — and when a team is shooting the ball like they were, you can’t give them second and third opportunities.”
Fulcher finished with 21 points, Amihr Curtis tossed in 11 and Jamir Simpson had a 10-point, 10-rebound double. Lima Senior dominated Findlay 37-18 on the boards.
“I thought we had better ball movement and, defensively, our guys were mentally locked in and focused,” Simpson said in comparing Friday’s game with Lima’s earlier matchup with Findlay. “There are nights when we don’t shoot the ball well and have to adjust, but tonight was one of those nights when we shot well.”
Adams led Findlay with 14 points, Ryan Roth had 12 and R.J. Nunn scored 11 to move within one point of tying Ben Roethlisberger for third place on Findlay High’s career scoring list.
Findlay is at Toledo St. John’s in its TRAC and regular-season finale next Friday. The Trojans open tournament play the following week, with a rubber match with Lima Senior a definite possibility.
“I hope we can get another crack at them,” Rucki said. “We have to win a tournament game first, but if we do we’ll learn some things from this and hopefully be ready to go.”
Findlay (13-8, 7-6 TRAC)
Moore 1-4 0-1 2, R. Roth 4-12 2-2 12, Nunn 3-9 4-4 11, Adams 5-10 2-2 14, Strzempka 4-5 0-0 8, Howard 1-2 0-1 2, M. Roth 1-2 0-0 2, C. Stillings 0-0 0-0 0, Ankney 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19-44 8-10 — 51.
Lima Senior (17-4, 11-12 TRAC)
Luster 3-4 0-0 7, Fulcher 7-10 3-6 21, King 2-3 1-2 5, Simpson 5-8 0-1 10, Daniel 3-7 0-0 9, Clair 3-7 0-0 6, Mack 0-2 0-0 0, Curtis 5-6 0-0 11, Miles 0-3 2-2 2. TOTALS: 28-50 6-11 — 71.
Findlay 12 13 11 15 — 51
Lima Senior 18 19 20 14 — 71
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 5-16 (Moore 0-2, R. Roth 2-8, Nunn 1-4, Adams 2-2); Lima Senior 9-17 (Clair 0-1, Lsuter 1-2, Fulcher 4-5, Curtis 1-1, Simpson 0-1, Daniel 3-7).
rebounds: Findlay 18 (Howard 6); Lima Senior 37 (Simpson 10).
turnovers: Findlay 6, Lima Senior 7.
junior varsity: Findlay, 53-43.
Freshmen: Findlay, 64-35.